Mental health hotline to launch soon

ALPENA — The power to handle a mental health crisis will soon be only 11 digits away.

On Monday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill authorizing the establishment of a statewide mental health hotline, which should be in place in a matter of months.

Operators will be equipped to direct callers to local mental health care providers and other resources at any time of day or night.

The line, once established, can also be used by law enforcement and medical providers intervening in a crisis.

Police officers encounter people affected by mental illness on a daily basis, Lt. Eric Hamp of the Alpena Police Department said.

“I don’t think the average citizen understands how much of a mental health issue we have in our country,” Hamp said. “It’s rampant.”

In the Alpena area, mental health care is available through a variety of providers, such as Northeast Michigan Community Mental Health, Behavioral Health Services at MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena, and the Alcona Health Center.

Still, someone in the middle of a mental health crisis — their own or that of someone they love — doesn’t always know what to do, where to go, or who to call for help.

A phone number that can be dialed at any time, by anyone, offers a quick and unthreatening solution, a helpful voice in a time of uncertainty.

“There are folks that are desperately in need of someone to talk to,” Hamp said. “Any additional options for those who are in crisis, to be able to call that number, I think that’s wonderful.”

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, jriddle@thealpenanews.com or on Twitter @jriddleX.